Tuesday, August 25, 2015

food adventures in chicago // the girl and the goat

I'm not a restaurant critic, nor do I plan to make many restaurant reviews in the future; nevertheless, today I had to turn my inner fan girl loose. For the past week, we (the fam and I) have been in Chicago. On our trip, we sampled dishes from some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the Midwest. We at places like Mon Ami Gabi (My Friend Gabi in French), Deka, and the Tavern (previously called Tavern on the Town, my parents favorite place to socialize and eat when they lived in Chicago). I suppose, all food bloggers like to believe they're qualified to review restaurants; they like to believe they're part of an elitist super-race, one which sports highly discriminating taste buds that can pick apart dishes into their elemental components. I can't speak for my fellow foodies, but I am part of that super-race. Here is my review of my favorite restaurant we ate at in Chicago—The Girl and the Goat. 

Before I begin, let me preface this review with a few notes. If you're reading this second paragraph, confused about why you should listen to me telling you about why you should eat at The Girl and the Goat, you might as well listen to this fancy-pants: the James Beard Foundation nominated the Girl and the Goat as best new restaurant in 2011, and Stephanie Izard, executive chef at The Girl and the Goat won the James Beard award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2011. Like the truth of an echo echoing a truth, all this post is is a repetition of the reputable James with a beard. Also, I'd like to apologize in advance for the dark/blurry pictures. Although I requested a table besides a window, the restaurant was fairly dark and my hand was shaking from the mouthgasmic pleasure. Now we can get started. 

The atmosphere of The Girl and the Goat is very friendly and relaxed. From the moment you push through those iconic-Chicagoan, heavy, black revolving doors (I always get excited around revolving doors, we don't have many of them in San Diego) you feel like you've arrived at the motherland during Thanksgiving. Our waiter, whose name I have ashamedly forgotten, was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. My brother and I bombarded him with questions about practically half of the menu—what's piri piri, what's mostarda, what's gianciale, what's castelfranco, and what's blueberry nuoc cham?and he answered all of our questions with ease. 

The Food:
At the Girl and the Goat, the server recommends that each table share approximately 7-10 dishes. This is a great way of eating because you are able to sample more dishes while staving off the monotony that too often kills the joy of eating. If your family isn't closer together after literally sharing 7 plates of food, there is nothing The Girl and the Goat, I, nor any therapist can do for you. The bro and I ordered six dishes in total for the four of us, and by the end we were pretty stuffed. Here are all six of the amazing dishes we had at The Girl and the Goat in the order that they came out. 

1. roasted beet 
green beans + white anchovy + avocado creme fraiche + breadcrumbs
{3.75 stars}

Review: What a delicious way of eating beets! The white anchovies added the perfect amount of saltiness that complemented the slightly bitter frisee. The rich avocado creme fraiche and the crispy buttery breadcrumbs texturally contrasted each other while adding body to the dish. My only critic is that, despite being the star of the dish, the beets lacked much flavor. 

2. duck tongues +
tuna and black bean poke + crispy wontons + piri piri (an African chili)
{5 stars}

Review: On Chow Creations, there is no "saving the best for last"! This duck tongue and tuna black bean poke dish was not only my favorite dish of the evening, but it was probably the best thing I ate in Chicago and also the entire year! The plump firm tuna worked perfectly with the crispy unctuous duck tongue, and the veggies, dressed with a little vinegar, black bean paste, and piri piri balanced that richness. If a bowl...scratch that...if a pot of that was shoved in front of my face I would clean it and then ask for seconds. The dish was just a sensual taste bud roller coaster I think everybody should experience. You have to order this if you come to The Girl and the Goat!

3. crumpets and goat liver mousse +
blueberry mostarda + pickled rhubarb 
{4.75 stars}

Review: Imagine biting into the world's butteriest, chewiest, fluffiest crumpet in the world, oozing with rich smooth goat liver pate, blueberry mostarda (jam), spicy strawberry jam, and pickled rhubarb...yeah I ate that. This would have gotten the coveted Chow Creations five star approval if only it came with more crumpets. 

4. pan roasted halibut +
marcona almond butter + white asparagus + blueberry nuoc cham (nuoc cham is the vietnamese egg roll, spring roll, etc. dip)
{4.5 stars}

Review: There are two things that will impress even the most snotty food blogger: 1) a perfectly baked croissant and 2) a perfectly cooked filet of halibut. I'm not saying I'm a snotty blogger, but I know what I like, and this, Aaron likey. The inside of the fish was so juicy, while the outside was delicately crispy. I appreciated the thoughtful composition of this dish; the almond butter echoed the nutty flavors from the roasted fish, while the blueberry nuoc cham kept the plate light and refreshing. I noted some notes of miso and rice vinegar. This was a perfectly balanced dish. The one thing that could be improved was the texture of the almond butter. In my opinion, the grainy texture of the butter was incongruous with the rest of the dish. Besides having to puree the almond butter longer, this dish was flawless. 

5. crisp braised pork shank +
buttermilk dressing + nectarine kimchi + naan
{4 stars}

Review: Before I took the picture above, I told my brother to gently shred the meat so I could take a picture of the inside. Perhaps he was too excited, nevertheless, the pork shank literally melted off the bone in front of our eyes. The true star of this dish is the succulent pork shank; however, I would be remiss if I didn't place emphasis on how good the condiments were. The nectarine kimchi was a simple but innovative approach to summer nectarines, while the buttermilk dressing cooled the heat of the chilies. This was the largest portions of the dinner, still, the ratio of naan to shank was the reason why I only gave this one four stars. 

6. confit goat belly +
vanilla brown butter + lobster + fennel
{3.5 stars}

Review: The goat belly, vanilla brown butter, and lobster were all very rich, but tasty flavors, perhaps the richest accouterments of the evening. Despite this, too much, even richness, can be heavy on the palate. Although the heaviness of the dish was balanced by the fennel, it was definitely overpowered by the other components. Unfortunately, this was my least favorite dish I had at The Girl and the Goat; however, to be fair, my standards had risen over the course of the dinner. At any other second-rate restaurant, this dish would have garnered awards upon accolades. 

I hope you guys found this review interesting. Please comment below if you want more of these, or you want me to stick with "my day job" recipe blogging. Visit The Girl and the Goat the next time you visit Chicago. Just make sure that you make reservations months in advance to secure a spot. The Girl and the Goat was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Chicago, and hope y'all discover that for yourselves as well. And as always, 


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